MOSCOW, March 7 (R-Sport) - Maria Sharapova is a "real Russian patriot" despite her US lifestyle, Russia's tennis chief Shamil Tarpishchev said Thursday.
The Florida-based sporting icon faces occasional criticism that she pays too little attention to her homeland, playing the Fed Cup only when it suits her Olympic qualification aspirations.
"Despite the fact that she was raised in America, Maria is a real Russian patriot," Tarpishchev told R-Sport.
Sharapova, 25, was born in the Western Siberian town of Nyagan but moved to the United States when she was seven.
She has since been absorbed into US pop culture, often appearing on chat shows where tennis talk is little more than an icebreaker for the more meaty themes of fashion and style.
And despite Sharapova being one of the world's top-earning female athletes with sponsorship deals taking her income into the tens of millions of dollars, Tarpishchev insists that fame and fortune have not changed her.
"Sharapova is all about the image," he acknowledged. "But this is one fantastically gifted player. ... These contracts don't knock her, she doesn't suffer from the dizziness that can come with stardom."
As Russia's Fed Cup captain, Tarpishchev has to manage Sharapova's whims when it comes to representing her home country.
She was accused in some quarters of only playing in 2008 and 2012 to get into Russia's Olympic team for the Beijing and London Games.
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Russia and the West Have Conspired to Tear Ukraine Apart. Both Sides Must Stand Down Now or Face the Consequences
We’re now witnessing the consequences of how grossly both Russia and the West have overplayed their hands in Ukraine. It is urgently necessary that both should find ways of withdrawing from some of the positions that they have taken. Otherwise, the result could very easily be civil war, Russian invasion, the partition of Ukraine, and a conflict that will haunt Europe for generations to come.